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We Are Flying Solo

April 7, 2012

So, How Was Your Day?

Plan:  Wake up, load up, leave farm about 9:00, take Encore and Pete along with me and lifeshighway to the Moss Foundation on a perfect riding day in the beautiful pine savannah.

Reality:  I should have stayed in bed.

Episode 1:  I am backing out of my driveway, as per usual.  My street is narrow but has very little traffic, it doesn't even have a middle line.  I'm not really paying attention, I do this every morning.  Until I feel the passenger rear wheel suddenly sink into the ditch, that deadly point of no return where your axle is riding the ground.  *insert many bad words here*  Plus the grass was JUST slick enough from a light frost that there was no hope of a lucky surge.

However, I AM a lucky person in that I look forlornly out my windshield and my eyes lock on to my work truck sitting in the driveway.  Which just so happens to have a 9,000 lb winch on the front.  As furtively (please, let the neighbours be sleeping) and quickly as possible, I dig out winch controller, pull out cable, attach to tow hook, wrestle with poor plug placement on front of work truck, curse many times, then hit the go button. 

Like magic, my precious is gently removed from the ditch and ready to go once more. 

My brain, however, said beware a bad omen at the start.

Sometimes, I'm a poor listener.

Episode 2:  I had heard my phone ringing while hooking up the winch, but I blew it off in favour of the task at hand.  Upon recovering truck and normal direction of travel, I see call was from BO and I call her back.

"Um," she says.  "Encore has a cut on his leg and it is swollen, is it ok if I take him out and cold hose him."

More cursing.

I know exactly what happened.  Encore was put out last night with his normal pasturemate PLUS another horse who he is not usually with.  Other horse gets quite aggressive at food time and it's not hard to surmise that hooves started flying at breakfast time and Encore got the blow trying to get away (he's mostly submissive in the pasture).

I get there and find a deep slice and leg swollen hock to ankle.

Where is my tendon?

Deceptively small.

My hocks are two differently sized turkeys.

So much more cursing.  Horse trial in two weeks.  Why, cod, why? 

I call vet -- I'm taking no chances.  Robin is on call, so we meet him at clinic.  Summary:  the shoe slice itself is just forward enough to have avoided anything nasty, it's just made a pocket where it cut the flesh.  The concern is the cellulitis, which sets in very quickly, so just in case the swelling IS that (instead of just a trauma reaction), to SMZ-ville we shall go. 

Thankfully, Dr. Brian says we should be cleared up within a week and have no problem getting to our trial.  I am relieved but still anxious until I can kill the swelling.  I leave with assignment of Furazone/DMSO sweat for 2-3 days, 5 days of antibiotics, and standing wraps.  I will also sneak my Animalintex in there because it is magic.  I was glad I went, because had I waited two days, we might have been in a world of hurt. 

On the good side, Encore is not lame at the walk and is very generous about letting us mess with it.  When I poke it and cold hose it, he just holds up the leg as if to say, Fix please, mum.

There was nothing more I could do for him so I turned him out and we loaded Solo on the trailer in his stead.  We would not get to enjoy our lovely sandhills, but there are some nice (hilly!) bridle trails in a local city park, so we went there instead.  It would be good for the hippo slug Solo to work off some fat.

Episode 3:  We were just at this park last weekend.  They held a 100 mile foot race (why anyone would voluntarily do such a thing, I have no idea, but whatever).  Since then, they have put down a bunch more gravel on the lovely, smooth bridle paths which are usually just screenings.  Evil.

Both Solo and Pete are barefoot behind (I put Solo's old easyboots on his front feet).  It made for a long ride.  There were some stretches we could get some trot work in, but you had to come to a screeching halt and pick your way through some sharp-edged, hoof-poking #57 approximately every 5 minutes.  We decided to call it interval training and all parties were overjoyed to get back to the trailer.

I don't think Solo will ever let me catch him again, but Encore let me take off his wraps and hose his leg tonight, dose him with his SMZ's, and wrap him back up without complaint. 

Now, I am drinking a beer and I am considering never leaving the house again.

April 3, 2012

I Am Not A Vet

I just wanted to share a brief summary of the 4,000th time Dr. Bob has saved me from myself.  I got both Batman AND Robin today actually, I felt quite assured they would fix my boys.

Solo's big ol' hole that was all mushy and gross and I was sure would lead to coffin bone infection and surgery and imminent death?  It was an abcess that blew right through the frog.  Dr. Bob was able to carve the whole thing out and all is well again.  I never saw Solo limp though, so he snuck it by me!

Encore got a check-over by Batman to follow up on his sidekicks work and a thumbs up of approval was given.  Dr. Bob did a little more work on his poll and then two fluid acupuncture injections behind his ears, which I had never seen before.  Basically the fluid is a saline mixture (I forget what it was mixed with) that puts pressure on the nerve endings.  Encore was completely unphased by big needles going into his skull -- he was fixated on the fact that the whole clinic smells like cows (Dr. Bob raises beef you can buy on the hoof) and nothing else mattered.

So I brought home two repaired ponies and hopefully, with the holiday weekend, I can, GASP, actually ride them!

April 2, 2012

Oh, Solo, Now I Have To Call Batman Too?!

Solo has been out on a pasture which has a giant mudpit by the gate from this winter.  It's a boggy area that never really dries all the way except in drought.  Unfortunately, horses also like to hang out by the gate.  Also unfortunately, due to some genetic flaw, Solo has wussy feet.

I'm sure it doesn't take you long to make the leap:  thrush.  I was not a happy camper.  My horse has NEVER EVER EVER had thrush and I work so hard at foot care.  But there was little I could do except treat the snot out of it, which I did.

At the end of last week, it was ok.  Not great, still mushy, but I kept pouring stuff on it and Robin had helped by carving out some flaps of frog that were trapping bacteria.

Sad foot is sad.
Tonight, I had decided to give Encore the night off after a tough weekend of MAJOR trail/hill/roadwork on Saturday and a dressage lesson on Sunday.  My plan was to ride Solo.  That is, until I picked up his right front foot.

He's barefoot right now, since he's not doing much, so his feet don't trap much dirt.  But as I went to scrape out the mud trapped on his frog, my hoof pick sunk in.  Deeper.  As I picked, it went even deeper and dug out white mushy stuff.  My heart sank.

I shoved the ThrushBuster neck in as far as it would go and filled it with purpleness.  I made sad eyes at BO and said, can Solo PLEASE stay up in the dry pasture tonight so I can take him to vet tomorrow?  Happily she said yes, so he will be accompanying his little brother to see the Dynamic Duo (Encore's getting some follow-up accupuncture on his poor stuck poll).

Did I mention I just had to take my blue-tongued shink to the vet on Friday?

It never ends....

March 29, 2012

In Which Robin Is Just As Awesome As Batman

Right before the final jump on the Southern Pines XC course, I felt Encore crossfire as he did a 90 degree turn while I tried to convince him to balance.  I felt something tweak beneath me.  It wasn't quite a pop, it wasn't a stumble, but something changed.  He cantered on unchanged and showed no signs of distress, so I let him jump the jump and we stopped.

I hopped off, felt tendons, joints, checked shoes, feet, all were intact and perfectly normal.  I continued to watch them over the next few days, but to my great relief everything remained at baseline levels.

Then I saw it:  a wayward vertebrae sticking up in Encore's SI area, jutting up like a mini K2 along his spine.  There seemed to be no pain around it, but I felt certain that was what I felt on that turn.  I made an appointment with my vet and kept riding.

Encore slowly began to develop pain in his loin on the right side and his hip on the left side.  I, of course, freaked out, having not had the best history with back sore horses.  But I held my breath and tried to contain my panic.

Dr. Bob is always very busy and only does farm calls on certain days, so his sidekick, Dr. Brian, came out to fix my broken unicorn.  I showed him the hip and loin pain, and showed him the vertebrae I had found (as if he couldn't find it himself) and told him about the weird step on course.  I then said Encore had to be perfect by April 21st and he was in charge of making him fixed or else he owed me $350 of a missed event, ha!

He nodded and assured me that all made sense -- when the front end is doing one thing and the back end is doing the opposite, it basically jams the spine in the middle together and then you get things popping out.  Ow.

Then he promptly went to Encore's head and started feeling around his neck.  I watched, puzzled.  His neck didn't hurt, his back hurt.

But I have already witnessed that Dr. Brian knows A LOT about feet and is very thorough with his bodywork, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

"Do you have a hard time flexing him right?" he asked.


"Is it hard for him to bend right and he falls in?"

Yep.  I just figured his muscles were a bit tight or I just wasn't training him well enough.

"Nope," the Boy Wonder said, "the right side of his poll is all jammed up and he cannot flex it to the right at all."

Well, I'll be gee-whilikers.  I never even thought about that.  I bow before my new guru of bodywork.

Dr. Brian spent a fair amount of time loosening up his poll, then put his spine back where it belonged and told me to assess over the next 4-5 days.  I was to ride him lightly and stretchily the next day and then resume work.  If, after 5 days, he was still tight in the poll, he can work on it some more and do some acupuncture.


So I rode him last night as instructed.  His back felt great -- he was steady in the bridle and stretched and rounded his little heart out, it was lovely.  He did have improved motion in his poll to the right but was still a bit tight.  Some may be muscle habit, so I'll continue coaxing it over the next few days and then see where we stand.

Encore's body has changed a LOT in the seven (??!!) months I have had him -- the way he moves, his musculature, it's all different, so there is bound to be some adjustment needed.  I am so grateful that I have Batman and Robin on my team to make sure my little buddy stays healthy when I miss a detail!

March 24, 2012

Tantrums And Tree Sex

I bet a get a lot of google hits off that title.  If I add the word "cat" I might be able to garner the entire internet to this blog!

It was hot yesterday evening as we rode Solo and Pete, the dynamic duo, into woods stained yellow in a tree-orgy of pollen.  Oh yes, it's that time of year. 

I had turned Encore out in his paddock, content to let him rest and eat another day while I took my Shiny Man out for what had always been his favourite, a romp in the woods with our best friends.

Turns out, a particular redhead had been enjoying doing not much at all much more than I thought.  He slowed and stalled and nipped at my toes and paused at every puddle we crossed, ostensibly to "drink" but I knew that old trick too well -- it was really an excuse to get me to let go of the reins and let him stand still. 

I had to be a little sympathetic, we'd taken the hilly trail and it was no doubt akin to forcing an obese man to run bleacher stairs for the first time in months.  Poor hippo pony.  I told him it was pretty pathetic that the six year old gave me a better trail ride than his opinionated butt that day.

It was quite the miracle though, once we turned for home, suddenly, he was all red fire again, charged with energy, bare feet no longer tender and delicate, but rather charging full blast down the trail.  It still made me laugh.

Sorry, buddy, I haven't forgotten a single one of your tricks or tantrums.

A trademark Solo-tantrum moment.
As we came to a big puddle that crossed most of the trail, we approached at the walk, but it was deep and wide enough, I KNEW he would jump it.  And when that red horse makes up his mind, you just get ready.  What I didn't know is that he would jump it, kick out, leap sideways, half rear, fling his head in the air, and make his bid for galloping freeeeeeeedommmmmm.  Right at a giant tree.  Umm.

The Solo trantrums never do give you any warning.

I yanked the right rein back towards the middle of the trail and kicked him forward out of the "up," my primary thought being, damn, if I run into a tree, I can no longer make fun of lifeshighway (Pete's mom) for running into a tree!  But we missed it and instead did a long, swinging trot up the hill, even after fatty got tired and begged to stop.

All walked home uneventfully after that, got a good hosedown, and were returned to their appropriate pastures.  Solo made me work a lot harder than I wanted to, but I felt like we at least burned some calories.  Someone also DEFINITELY needs to get a bit of a work ethic back!